I don’t know about you, but to me, the words fast food and diet don’t exactly go together. I think of fast food as burgers, French fries, and fried chicken. Meanwhile, the word diet invokes thoughts of organic vegetables, rice cakes, and quinoa.
As regular readers know, for more than a century, Chinese food in America was exclusively Cantonese, and particularly a brand of Cantonese food brought by immigrants from rural Toishan. It wasn’t until the 1960s that non-Cantonese food made its appearance in the United States, first under the moniker “Mandarin” or “Northern” Chinese food, then subsequently in the 1970s, Sichuan and Hunan-style food. With Chinese food divided into Cantonese and non-Cantonese camps, a truism arose which withstood into the 21st Century: never order a non-Cantonese dish at a Cantonese restaurant, and never order a Cantonese dish at a Mandarin restaurant. Xiao long bao or kung pao chicken at a Cantonese restaurant? Forget it! Char shiu at a non-Cantonese restaurant? No way! Restaurants touting “Cantonese, Szechuan and Hunan cuisine?” Turn around and run away as fast as you can.
But with so many facets of Chinese dining in America changing in the last five to ten years, this truism is also starting the pass by the wayside. Perhaps the most glaring example of the changes afoot are startling developments with some newly opened dim sum restaurants. Dim sum, Cantonese in origin, is traditionally a lunchtime affair. Consequently, dim sum restaurants need a completely different bill of fare at dinnertime. Since the 1980s in the United States and Canada, these dinners have uniformly been centered around Hong Kong-style cuisine, and in particular Hong Kong-style seafood. It’s the most logical pairing, given dim sum’s Cantonese roots and the dominance of Cantonese-style food in Chinese-American communities until quite recently. (more…)
I recently traveled to Israel for the first time. During my trip, I acquainted myself well with the local cuisine: Lamb, shawarma, falafel, fish. I even tried hummus, though I never liked it back in the States (I didn’t like it in Israel, either). Eventually, as is my wont, I was craving fast food, specifically pizza. At the airport in Tel Aviv waiting to board my flight, I saw a welcome sight: Pizza Hut.
I ran — literally ran — over there, with thoughts of a gooey cheese pan pizza with olives and mushrooms dancing around in my head. But when I looked at the menu, I was surprised that in addition to pizza, Israeli Pizza Huts serve quiche. (more…)
Since Chinese food first came to America in the mid-19th century, the best Chinese food in the United States has generally been found in California. With by far the largest Chinese population from the 1850s through the mid-20th century, it is no mystery why San Francisco had the best Chinese food for well over a century. However, with the late 1960s immigration act once again permitting large-scale immigration from China to the United States after more than eight decades of tight immigration restrictions, changing immigration patterns had shifted the apex of Chinese dining in the United States in the 1980s to New York, and in particular, Manhattan Chinatown. (more…)
With kimchi pizzas, bulgogi tacos, and gochujang ribs popping up on menus of in-the-know, non-Korean restaurants all over the country, and with the rise of celebrity chefs like David Chang of Momofuku fame to Roy Choi of the Kogi food truck, Anthony Bourdain has said, “what chefs want to eat — and increasingly everybody — is Korean food.”
As a first-generation Korean-American, I’m gratified to see a wider audience come to appreciate the wonders of Korean food and sometimes slightly dismayed at what I see as gross misinterpretations (usually not to the benefit of the dish, in my opinion). So what is Korean food? In this post, I delve into the basics of Korean food, from an overview of the geography and cultural influences that shaped Korean cuisine to the basic vocabulary of Korean food. (more…)